Polish farmers blocking one border crossing with Ukraine have suspended their protest until January after receiving assurances from the agriculture minister that their demands would be met by the new government. The number of trucks passing through the crossing at the beginning of the week consequently rose by almost 50%.
However, other crossings continue to be blocked by Polish truckers protesting against cheaper Ukrainian competition. At one, the demonstrators have tightened their blockade, now allowing through only one Ukrainian lorry every three hours. As a result, the waiting time to cross there has risen to over 30 days.
‼️ Protest w #Medyka zawieszony od jutra, od godz. 8:00.
Minister @CzSiekierski i sekretarz stanu @EKOlodziejczak_ spotkali się dziś z protestującymi rolnikami w Medyce. 🤝
Z okazji zbliżających się Świąt Bożego Narodzenia wspólnie podzielili się opłatkiem.🎄 pic.twitter.com/8t6TT82tmL
— Ministerstwo Rolnictwa i Rozwoju Wsi (@MRiRW_GOV_PL) December 23, 2023
Farmers from a group calling themselves “Cheated Podkarpacie countryside” – referring to the name of a province in southeast Poland on the border with Ukraine – began blocking the Medyka border crossing on 23 November.
They joined truckers already protesting at the border, who in late November also expanded their action at Medyka to an around-the-clock blockade.
While truckers are demanding the return of an EU entry permit system for Ukrainian hauliers, the farmers want, among other things, corn subsidies, additional money for liquidity loans, and capping the agricultural tax at this year’s level for the next year.
The protest by Polish hauliers blocking the Ukrainian border intensified this week with the introduction of the round-the-clock blockade at the fourth crossing.
Poland is set to discuss truckers’ demands in Brussels next weekhttps://t.co/4geVgkwuUm
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 28, 2023
On Saturday, just before Christmas, farmers announced that they were temporarily suspending their protest at Medyka after receiving assurances from Czesław Siekierski, the agriculture minister in Poland’s new government, which took office earlier this month.
“We have discussed these demands with the finance minister, in the presence of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, and as far as corn subsidies are concerned there is acceptance,” said Siekierski, quoted by Polsat. “A request to the European Commission on this issue has already been formulated; there is money reserved for the subsidy.”
Siekierski also noted that a procedure allowing local authorities to exempt farmers from the tax increase next year is already being prepared, with around 350 million zloty (€80.65 million) being allocated for this
He stressed that local governments will be reimbursed for carrying the costs of the tax freeze for farmers in 2024, with around 350 million zloty (€80.65 million) being allocated for this. The minister also noted that 2.5 billion zloty (€580 million) is also earmarked in the budget act for liquidity loan subsidies.
Od niedzieli protest rolników na przejściu w #Medyka zawieszony‼️
Minister rolnictwa @CzSiekierski zapewnił rolników, że ich postulaty zostaną spełnione, ale zaznaczył, że wymaga to czasu.
💬Rozmawialiśmy o realizacji postulatów z ministrem finansów, w obecności premiera Donalda… pic.twitter.com/8UrAX1n7tp
— Ministerstwo Rolnictwa i Rozwoju Wsi (@MRiRW_GOV_PL) December 24, 2023
The leader of the farmers’ protest, Roman Kondrów, welcomed Siekierski’s assurances. He noted, however, that the farmers need a written declaration signed by the prime minister guaranteeing their demands will be met, otherwise they may resume their protest on 2 or 3 January.
The farmers suspended their protest at 8 a.m. on Sunday, 24 December. The Carriers and Transport Employers Defence Committee (Komitet Obrony Przewoźników i Pracodawców Transportu) did not respond to questions from Notes from Poland about whether the truckers would continue protesting at Medyka.
Customs data, however, show that the flow on the border increased following the farmers’ decision to halt the protest.
The Tax Administration Chamber in Rzeszów told Notes from Poland that on Monday and Tuesday, 25-26 December, customs officers cleared 943 trucks in both directions at the border crossing in Medyka, compared to 642 on the same days a week earlier, representing an increase of 47%.
The Polish blockade at the Medyka-checkpoint has ended. According to Ukrainian border guards, the farmers ended their strike this morning. Trucks in the direction of entry into Ukraine are processed in the usual manner. https://t.co/VD0SSTNLJI pic.twitter.com/sSJEdehI8E
— NOELREPORTS 🇪🇺 🇺🇦 (@NOELreports) December 24, 2023
However, traffic has slowed at another crossing, Dorohusk, where truckers have tightened their blockade.
Previously, as part of an agreement with the Ukrainian side, the protesters began allowing three Ukrainian trucks per hour to pass, up from one per hour at the start of the protest. But they have now reduced that to just one every three hours.
“The protest is now in its eighth week; we have to change tactics somehow,” Edyta Ozygała, head of the carriers’ protest in Dorohusk, told the Polish Press Agency (PAP). “For seven weeks our concessions to the Ukrainian side did not work, so now we are stepping up the protest.”
According to data from the Tax Administration Chamber (IAS) in Lublin, 1,500 lorries were queuing to leave Poland for Ukraine via the Dorohusk crossing yesterday. The average waiting time exceeded a month, while under normal circumstances it would be around 68 hours for 1,500 trucks. Today, the figure stood at 1,400 vehicles.
📢Raport z #granica w #lubelskie
Sytuacja na towarowych przejściach w woj. lubelskim.
Dane z 27.12.2023 r., godz. 8:00. Kierunek wywozowy z Polski:
🚚Koroszczyn: 3h oczekiwania
🚚Dorohusk: 1400 pojazdów
🚚Hrebenne: 650 pojazdów
🚚Zosin: na bieżąco
🚚Dołhobyczów: na bieżąco pic.twitter.com/ck2ZAktlBj
— Lubelska KAS (@KAS_Lublin) December 27, 2023
The carriers’ protest at Dorohusk crossing, which has been ongoing since 6 November, was dissolved on 11 December by the local mayor, Wojciech Sawa. However, his decision was overturned in court, allowing the blockade to continue.
At Hrebenne and Korczowa, two other crossings blocked by truckers, hauliers continue to let several trucks per hour pass, reported PAP yesterday.
Around 950 vehicles were queuing at Hrebenne yesterday. According to IAS in Lublin, the estimated waiting time there is 12 days, compared to 80 hours in normal circumstances. Today the queue shortened to 650 vehicles.
A decision by a local mayor earlier this week to disband one of the blockades by Polish truckers of the border with Ukraine has been overturned by a court.
One of the protest leaders says they now plan to resume the blockade on Monday https://t.co/RwDos3Voy2
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 15, 2023
On Saturday, the new infrastructure minister, Dariusz Klimczak, during a meeting in Dorohusk with protesters, asserted that Poland “must revise” the existing trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine.
Currently, it allows “the complete entry – without any restrictions, conditionality – of Ukrainian carriers into the Polish and European market…[which] has resulted in our carriers being largely eliminated from the market”, claimed Klimczak, quoted by PAP.
“For our part, there is a firm conclusion that we need to revise the agreement,” he added. “The Ukrainian side has finally agreed to talks on this subject. Until now there was no such agreement.”
During a visit to Kyiv last week, the new foreign minister, Radosław Sikorski, also told his Ukrainian counterpart that “we must restore conditions of fair competition in trade between both countries so that everyone benefits”.
The previous Polish government, led by the national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, had demanded a return to the prewar entry permit system for Ukrainian trucks. However, the EU’s transport commissioner rejected that idea and called for Poland to bring the protest to an end.
Poland’s new foreign minister @sikorskiradek is in Kyiv for his first overseas trip since taking office last week.
He pledged that the new Polish government would continue supporting Ukraine in defending itself from Russia’s “colonial war” https://t.co/I36wFZ5xkV
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 22, 2023
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Main image credit: Patryk Ogorzalek / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.